Between 1987 and 1993 Dr. Marc de Leval, One of Europe's leading cardiologists, performed 104 arterial switch operations at Ormond Street Hospital in London, England. The surgery was designed to correct a congenital heart defect in infants. While many patients did well, Dr. Leval felt that too many infants were dying after being transferred to the ICU. In 1994, Dr. Leval published a paper about his struggle to figure out why too many infants were dying after arterial switch surgery. Not all of the deaths could be attributed to the risky procedure or hospital equipment. He wondered if it had to do with poor performance by either him or one of the team members. As he began to work on the problem, he determined that the handoff between the surgical team and ICU was the problem.
In 2003, Dr. Goldman and Dr. Martin Elliott were taking a break. Both were fans of formula one racing. As they watched a race on the TV in the break room, they began to notice and comment on the efficiency of the 20-man pit crew. The crew could change 4 tires, fill the gas tank, adjust the airfoils, get the driver a drink and clean the filters and windshield in 7 seconds. The pit crew made the hospital staff seem slow and clumsy. The two doctors decided to invite the pit crew in to talk with the doctors and staff about working efficiently together as a team. One of the things they learned from the pit crew was their diligence in recording every pit stop and noting the mistakes. The pit crew was obsessed with correcting all mistakes.
Dr. Goldman and Dr. Martin Elliot, having read Dr. Marc de Leval's 1994 paper about infants dying after surgery decided they would try using the formula one pit crew's techniques. Goldman and Elliot started examining every detail of the handoff between the surgery team and the ICU team. The result was that technical errors fell by 42 percent and information errors dropped by over 49 percent. They learned that a successful and efficient handoff between the surgery team and the ICU team could make the difference between life a death for the patient.
When surgery teams, ICU teams, and church teams fail to focus on the most important things, the result is disaster and possibly even death. Surgeons that don't pay attention to the details loose patients. Churches that focus on maintenance, survival, and status quo lose their souls and change nothing. Churches that focus on the details of the most important thing, discipleship and being Christ in the world, change lives and make an eternal difference.
Following Jesus means paying attention to the details of discipleship and being Christ in the world. So what are those details? First, we need a mind like Jesus. We don't need a fundamentalism that obscures the face of a compassionate God. We don't have a mind like Jesus when we wipe away the best principles of our Christian heritage in favor of a hard moralism and manipulation that attempts to scare people into the Gospel. It's disturbing to read and hear stories like the one told by Brennan Manning.
I got involved with a youth group at my church that made me fear for my salvation and be afraid of God. It was a terrorist spirituality, and I decided that there was no point in going to church anymore. (1)
We need minds like Jesus. Jesus had compassion for his enemies, the sick, downtrodden, and outcasts. Do we model Jesus in the way we think about our neighbor, in the way we view the world and manage our attitude about those with whom we disagree or oppose? Having the mind of Jesus forces us to work on those areas where we tend to veer off the path of Grace.
We need hands like Jesus. Michael J. Christensen tells the story of how Mother Teresa started her first orphanage in Calcutta. Mother Teresa had vision. She shared her vision with her superior. "Well, how much money do you have?" asked the Mother Superior. "I have two pennies!" replied Sister Teresa. "Oh, you cannot start an orphanage with just two pennies," said the Mother Superior. "No, but with two pennies and God I can start an orphanage," replied Sister Teresa. (2)
As they say, the rest is history. A crucial part of helping others see Jesus is being His hands. You are the hands of Jesus when you say, "I care."
Finally, you cannot have the mind or hands of Jesus without first having His heart. Having the heart of Jesus opens our eyes and ears to the world around us. It pushes back cynicism. The heart of Jesus leads to outer expressions of love and commitment that comes from and inner expression of who we are as follows of Jesus Christ.
We are recipients of an incredible gift. Don't drop the ball. Pay attention to what's important. Be the mind, the hands, and the heart of Jesus. May everyone you meet see Jesus in you. Think about it.
1 Brennan Manning, A Glimpse of Jesus: The Stranger to Self-Hatred (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2003), 15.
2 Michael J. Christensen, The Samaritan's Imperative (Nashville, TN: Abington Press, 1991), 113.